The Vancouver School District (VSB) has been ordered to fork over the equivalent of 4,000 quarters after losing a lawsuit against the owner of a vending machine company who once worked in a pair of high schools.
The provincial court ruling posted Wednesday ends a years-long dispute that began with allegations of expired, unhealthy snacks and ended with privacy-breaching pictures of instant noodles.
In the end, the court found the school board terminated Paul Ma’s contract without cause.
“I find the [school board] became frustrated over the ‘disruptive behaviours’ of [Ma] and wanted ‘out’ from the contract,” wrote B.C. provincial court Judge Gregory Rideout.
“[But] I do not find his disruptive conduct amounted to a repudiation [or denial] of the contract.”
Po Hua Ma, also known as Paul Ma, installed his vending machines at VanTech Secondary School on East Broadway in September 2015. His contract with the board said the machines were supposed to stay in place for five years, so long as they stocked healthy options like milk, water or juice instead of sugary drinks like pop as per provincial guidelines.
In B.C., at least half of the prepackaged food and beverages sold in vending machines must be “healthier options” for student health.
Within a year of the machines going into Van Tech, Ma and the school district were at odds over his stock. The district said Ma had a number of guideline-breaking options in his machines and told him to remove them before Dec. 16, 2016, or lose its business.
The district sent a second letter and held a meeting the following February.
Ma said he only broke the rules once by including a packet of instant noodles, but the district said he “consistently breached” the rules with unhealthy snacks, expired food and toys.
The dispute reached a boiling point in the summer of 2017.
Instant noodle double standard
Ma saw a snack shop inside Van Tech was selling banned instant noodles to independent summer school students on the campus. Court documents said the summer school was using the Van Tech building but wasn’t run by the VSB.
The district banned Ma from campus after he refused to delete the pictures.
He sued the district for loss of income, claiming the district breached his contract.
Judge Rideout sided with Ma. He said the district didn’t tell him about the privacy rules nor include them in his contract.
“While the Claimant did not have the consent of the Defendant to take photographs on Van Tech property, this did not form part of the contract,” Rideout wrote.
“I find that it is clear the [district] was looking for a way of terminating the contract with [Ma] in July 2017,” referencing an earlier email from the principal which said they had “had more than enough of PoMa Vending.”
Ma was awarded $1,000 in nominal damages for breach of contract. He had asked for more than $300,000, but the judge found he didn’t provide enough evidence in court to prove he lost that much business.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News and is published from a syndicated feed.)